RealTimeRental, a rental booking software program, recently found that 43% of their clients’ reservations in 2015 were from repeat guests, a whopping $135 million out of $326 million total, with guests who returned at least twice making up 21% of overall bookings. [VRM Intel: page 29]
This is a massive number and one that needs to be considered by every property manager out there. In marketing, repeat customers are the bread and butter — because you aren’t spending any money on them. Finding new customers is always harder and more expensive than creating a service that encourages customers to come back.
One of the main attractions of vacation rentals in general is having a unique stay, so you have to provide a great enough experience that a guest would want to come back instead of trying something new. So what can you do to encourage repeat guests? Here are 5 ideas:
Be a great communicator
The first step in providing a great VR experience comes down to communication. If the host or property manager is hard to get ahold of or communicate with, a guest probably won’t want to continue that struggle.
A few keys to great communication:
Setting clear expectations in the posting, so that a guest doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises when they show up.
Be responsive to any questions they have both before and during their stay. Texting is great for quickly communicating with your guests.
Having an easy way for them to check in or pick up the key. Arrivals can be stressful after a long flight or trip, especially if the flight is delayed. Have a plan for late arrivals in place and make the whole experience as painless as possible for your guests.
Quickly solving any problems that arise during the stay. For example, if the WiFi goes down, you need to fix it as soon as possible. If your response is delayed, they will be frustrated and disappointed.
Provide a stellar experience
This often comes down to attention to detail. Offer as many amenities as you can. Things like Netflix, kitchen supplies, and pool toys go a long way. Make up a book of things to do nearby, especially secret spots that might not be on Yelp or in tourist books. Help your guest get the most of of their stay both at your property and in the area. Get to know them a bit so that you know what they like to do, and help them do that. For example, if they like to hike, recommend a few awesome hikes in the area. Simple things like this go a long way.
Make sure that you have every guest’s email and every once in a while, send along discounts for repeat visitors. Let them know that you value their loyalty. Offering a $50 discount will save you money in the long run, because every repeat guest you have saves you money on finding new guests. Plus, you already know that the guest is respectful, so there isn’t the usual risk factor.
Stay in touch
This is along the same lines. You want to stay top of mind, so that when a guest considers coming back to your area, they think of you first. There are many ways to do this. You can send your guest a thank you note, send along information that they would find interesting, ask them to follow you on social media, or if you really bond with them, become Facebook friends.
Make them say “wow”
When it comes down to it, guests have plenty of options to choose from. What will really make them remember you? If you go out of your way to provide an amazing experience, you will stick in their mind forever. You could do anything from giving away bottles of homemade hot sauce, to cooking breakfast with fresh foods from the area, to personally giving them a tour of your area, or anything, really. Give them something they will never forget. A souvenir like the hot sauce is a great touch, because they will keep it in their house, and will think of you every time they use it. Then, when they are coming back to your area, they will instantly think of you. (And maybe they’ll get addicted to the hot sauce, and then they’ll have to come back!)
In the end, you’re competing against the unknown. A guest may want to stay at a new place, but an unknown place always comes with risks: what if the place isn’t as good as advertised? What if the host is awful at communicating? If you provide a great enough experience, and make sure that your guest remembers you, months or years later, it’s likely that your guests will want to opt for the known, and come back to stay at your place to create more great memories there.